Friday, September 12, 2014

Throwing Words and Things

Thirty three years ago today Dearest One asked me to marry him. We'd been together for a week, meeting face to face, after having started out as pen pals when I was a very young teenager. The odds were certainly against us. I give God the credit for us making it for the long haul. Had we not become people of faith our relationship would have crumbled long ago.

Because we spent such little time together before we married - after we got engaged he went back home across the country and I stayed put to finish college - he had no idea I might have a drinking problem. I didn't get drunk until 5 days after we married in a most embarrassing social situation for him which could've cost him his job and which resulted in a blackout for me.

In those early years of marriage and well, well into sobriety I didn't know how to communicate how I was feeling other than to throw words and things at him. He didn't know how to communicate his feelings other than to go silent and sometimes literally run the other way. At least once - no twice - it's a very good thing what I threw didn't hit him.

My sponsor and I are working through the steps. We're on step four -using the Al-Anon step four book. Something happened within me shortly after we began working the steps - a keen awareness and desire to be a better human being. A realization of things that both surprised and humbled me. A voice within that insistently said, "If you get nothing else right in this life - be kind to this man."

My summer was spent mostly away from home and after going on a silent retreat I met Dearest One in a campground for some 'us time'. I don't know if it was because I came from six days of silence or whether our prolonged absence from one another made my awareness keener but a few days into our camping trip I said to him, "You know what I've noticed? I'm hyper critical and super bossy of you." He told me that he had noticed it, too and that it wasn't much fun. I apologized and told him I was awareness and working on it. I felt no defensiveness about my actions - no need to justify a thing. He was matter of fact when he confirmed that my awareness of my actions was not my imagination.

Such a better way of communicating than throwing things and words. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

While It Was Still Night

This was not the summer I thought I'd have.
I spent most of my time away from home due to multiple deaths in the family (plus a wedding.)
I spent more nights in my childhood bedroom in the past seven weeks than in my grown up one.
There was a week in there where I went on a silent retreat.
I went to it heavy hearted as a dear family member lay dying in a hospital in another province.
There were surprise breakthroughs during the retreat that I am grateful for.
If I'm hanging on to resentments I cannot find gratitude.
If I accept what is then it's easier to embrace what is in front of me rather than pine for what I'd hope would be.
Stuff I knew on a head level but were felt deep within the heart.

An unexpected comfort was this verse:

"While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed." - Mark 1:35

Huge gulping tears recognizing that even though within me it is still night, I don't have to wait for dawn in order to pray.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Protecting The Invisible

"You're favouring your right side like you're protecting it."

He stands in front of me and mimics my stance so I can see for myself. He drops his right shoulder and curves that side of his body inward. As he does this it looks like he's protecting something invisible, something stuck to the right side of his chest. I don't know what's going through his head as he stands there but there is lots going through mine. What the hell - I'm protecting a breast that doesn't exist anymore? And accordingly it's largely responsible for the debilitating back pain I've been experiencing.

Earlier in the week they'd ruled out breast cancer migrating to my bones being the cause of the pain. Huge relief. X rays showed severe narrowing of a disc in my back. I will take that over cancer any darn day of the week even though some mornings it's a challenge to figure out how to get out of bed without being in excruciating pain.

The good news is that this physiotherapist had lots of ideas as to how to correct tiny imbalances in my posture and gain some pain relief.

We tell the world so much without even saying a word.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Countless Layers

We are slowly settling into our new home in the city. It's so odd to look out windows and see houses and people instead of landscapes and endless skies. I've found two views out my windows where I only see trees and sky and finding those views is a relief.

At heart I don't think city living is for me but it doesn't mean I can't enjoy it. The biggest benefit is that I am no longer body weary; no longer waking up tired because of the daily 100 mile roundtrip commute we used to make. I am grateful for that as I didn't know that being rested was ever going to be mine again. Between that and seeing our grandson regularly - those things make city living worthwhile.

It is a stretch to go from living on 80+ acres to a little plot of land in the city. Once the leaves are out on the trees and we have more privacy in our backyard it will seem easier to enjoy the beautiful yard we do have.

I feel full of contradictions. Full of "yes, but". So few people can handle the contradictions - instead they remind me of only the good as if the the hard stuff, the adjustments, can be dismissed - unimportant to acknowledge. I know from past experience that I need to acknowledge all of it before I can gain perspective. Too many years of trying to bypass my honest feelings did not work out well in the end.

The move has shifted inner worlds for both of us in a way that is good in the long run but shitty in the moment. Redefining our relationship in groundbreaking ways. When I came out of treatment I was told that when one person gets emotionally healthy they call the other person in the relationship to emotional health. If that person doesn't heed the call the relationship crumbles. At that time Dearest One heeded the call and I will be forever grateful for that. Now he is growing in ways that are calling me to deeper emotional health. I'm scared of this, of not getting it right, and I welcome it at the same time.

Who knew there are countless layers to the onion we call relationship? Should be no surprise then that with it comes tears, too.

Friday, February 28, 2014


It is bitterly cold out there tonight. Close to -50C with wind chill factored in. Spring is such a hopeful time of year. Let's hope it starts showing signs of arrival soon.

We move to the big city in spring. I spent part of my day packing up my books in my office. I have given away hundreds of books over the years. Now I only keep those that really speak to me, those that I will pick up more than once to read. I have a stack of unread books that I have already pegged for reading next winter.

My grandbaby is wonderful. He has the most beautiful smile that lights up his whole face. Only daughter is expecting a baby later this year. Two grandbabies. Doubly blessed. I never knew I was capable of loving the way I love my grandchildren.

Some people have more than their share of sorrow. A young woman who lost her parents last Spring lost a baby this past week. Holding the tiny baby in my hands (it was that tiny) I just couldn't stop the tears. "this is too much sorrow, Lord. Too much."

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Gift Of Regular Life

Good things happening in my life tend to lend themselves to no blogging. I told my grief counselor the other day that this blog is where I process what's going on in my life, particularly, the tough stuff. At the moment there is no tough stuff. Lots of great stuff, though.

Although I haven't yet completed the blood work for my second 6 month post cancer check up, the appointment itself was uneventful. I've been saying little prayers of gratitude for this uneventful life as opposed to a year ago when I felt like I was drowning in the grieving process of losing my breast to cancer.  I remember so clearly, when I was in both physical and mental pain, that I longed for regular life.

I've become one of those grandparents who just can't help showing off pictures of said grandbaby ad nauseum to whoever will humour me. Lordy, he is the sweetest gift ever and his face lights up with smiles when I talk to him.

We have sold our farm and are moving to the city on Maundy Thursday. I have yet to start packing but have been buying new furniture which is both fun and yucky feeling at times. I am not used to spending money like this. We bought a new dining room table. Our old one we've had for 27 years. See, I am not used to buying furniture. I told my counselor that it is pushing every security button I have and he laughed quite loudly at that. "So you are in a period of growth, are you?" Why, yes I am.

I am a hoarder by nature. Not of stuff but of money. If I was the only one in this relationship I would balance my budget to the penny and hoard everything leftover and get my security from it. I know that about myself. Hoarding money is my tendency. There has been this conflict going on inside me about new furniture not meaning a thing in the end nor is a bank account of any merit, either. It is both unsettling and freeing to know that. My counselor did point out, (after I told him that if I had a recurrence of cancer that the new furniture wouldn't mean anything), that if I had a recurrence I would need a beautiful space to heal in. I had instant tears at that thought. How do other people reconcile this stuff? Jesus had no place to lay his head. I can feel a little haunted by that.

My oncologist called me last week. Just over a year ago I had a particular test that helped us rule out the need for chemotherapy. It is not covered by health care in this province and I was one of the fortunate ones who got the test for free (it comes with a $4000 price tag) while this doctor lobbied the government to start covering the cost. He is ready to start talking to the media about it and was looking for a patient to speak to them as well. He asked if I would like to be a part of that process. Why yes, I would.

So, as you can see, lots of things are going on and none of them are life threatening. I am grateful.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Not Whiny

One day this week I was asked to go for lunch  with a coworker to meet up with a former colleague.  I hemmed and hawed a while before deciding if I would go. I had been sitting at my desk eating my lunch when she approached me. She asked because this woman we would meet up with had recently been diagnosed with cancer. In the end I thought, yes - being a silent support would be good. As if I could ever keep quiet.

We chit chatted about work stuff for quite a while. Then I looked at her, seated directly across from me, and said, "How are you." She replied, "Today is a good day."  and gave a brief smile. Zing. Instant tears formed in my eyes. Whew. It's not all behind me. It being my own cancer journey. I was caught off guard by the tears. I sure didn't want to make it about me in that moment so I swallowed hard and made a mental note to think about those tears later.

She worried aloud that she was being whiny if she phoned the specialists to see when she could see them. She's had the diagnosis for several weeks. Her particular cancer does not have a good outcome. I told her to never apologize for being an advocate for her own health. Certainly the doctors do not have her on their radar screen unless she is directly in front of them. She made some phone calls after lunch and as a result got an appointment slot right away. This is not a time to worry about appearing nice and not whiny. Is it ever?

Today is my second of four scheduled post cancer check ups. They happen every six months. I told my doctor at my last one that I wouldn't see him until this appointment. It's the longest I've gone without seeing a doctor in years. I'm grateful for that. I do get a little twitchy waiting for these check ups to be behind me. A friend in the program, who has had cancer several times, told me that it would take at least a year to not worry that every pain I experienced was an indicator of a recurrence. I have two friends who are dealing with metastatic breast cancer. They are on my mind often. My grief counsellor told me that he bet I thought about having had breast cancer every single day. He was right.

Next month I will have the opportunity to speak to a group of health professionals in training about my breast cancer journey. There is a lot going through my mind as to what to share and what to keep close to my (one sided) chest.